Development funded by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs
Increasing the Accuracy with Which Teachers Implement Research-Based Interventions
Professional development in schools is often accomplished by means of in-service seminars. Research-based interventions may be taught to special and general educators, who then return to their classrooms and try to use the interventions in their instruction. Too often, the effect of this type of in-service wears off after a short period of time.
A recent study funded by OSEP developed the research lead teacher (RLT) model, in which a teacher knowledgeable about both research-based interventions and research methods provides continued support to general education teachers who learn and implement a strategy instruction process in their classrooms. Findings from the study indicate that continued availability of the researcher through the RLT model can help teachers more fully implement the interventions.
The study, directed by Spencer and Logan, examined four activities necessary to bridge the gap between research and practice in schools. The RLT model addresses four activities:
- Engaging in effective research to practice activities, usually through having a person, who knows both research based interventions and how to conduct research working with teachers in a sustained and intensive way
- Engaging in effective staff development that is active, in-depth, and actually teaches how to implement research-based strategies through observation, coaching, and data based feedback
- Using peer teachers to support each other through a teacher study group format as they develop and reflect on new skills
- Finding effective, research-based strategies that address the needs of students with disabilities as well as other general education students who may be experiencing difficulty in learning.
The model employs a research lead teacher (RLT), a person who is knowledgeable about research-based interventions and research methods, has expertise in staff development procedures, works as a mentor teacher in the school, and knows the other teachers. The RLT serves as research consultant, trainer, mentor and strategy provider to the teachers.
The study compared the effectiveness of the RLT model in implementing a specific instructional strategy, Benchmark Strategy Instruction Process, under two conditions: a traditional half-day in-service session given by the RLT, and an ongoing study group with expert facilitation, modeling, coaching, observation, and data-based feedback by the RLT. (The RLT in the study was a doctoral student with a knowledge of research-based instructional strategies and staff development procedures who was also a half-time teacher mentor at the school without classroom responsibilities.) As reported in the study, the RLT "played a key role in observing and talking with teachers on an ongoing basis about specific learning and behavior problems in their classrooms. These observations and conversations were initiated by the teachers and led to ongoing relationships of trust and support."
The school where the study was conducted was in a large suburban district and had a large, heterogeneous student population. Nine teachers, kindergarten through fifth grade, participated in each of the two groups: the intervention group was provided observations and support by the RLT, and the control group received only the half-day in-service training , with no feedback from the data collectors or the RLT. Benchmark Strategy Instruction includes eight content steps and seven process steps. Over nine weeks, the frequency with which teachers used the steps and how they were used was measured by observation of the teachers' practice.
Immediately after the in-service training, both groups implemented an average of 4.4 of 8 of the "content" steps in the intervention and 2.5 of 7 "process" steps. As the weeks went by, use of the intervention continued to decrease in the control group of teachers but in the intervention group, it remained much higher and was much more consistently implemented.
Overall results of the study indicate that the RLT model is effective in training general educators to implement such interventions as the Benchmark Strategy Instruction Process, but they also show that "traditional in-service without any follow-up was not effective staff development, since none of the control group teachers consistently implemented the [intervention]." This suggests that teachers need ongoing support to implement research-based procedures and that the RLT model is one effective model for helping general education teachers to make better use of interventions in their instruction.
The research in the study was supported by the Office of Special Education Programs at the US Department of Education, Grant #H023G50033, Kent Logan, Project Director. For more information about the RLT model and the Benchmark Strategic Instruction Process, see Spencer, Sue S. and Logan, Kent R., "Bridging the Gap: A School Based Staff Development Model that Bridges the Gap from Research to Practice, " Teacher Education and Special Education 26, No. 1 (2003): 51-62.
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